Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu as an extremely destructive category 5 cyclone on the evening of 13 Mar 2015, causing serious damage to infrastructure and leaving debris strewn across the capital. (OCHA, 15 Mar 2015) As of 22 Mar, the storm had affected around 166,600 people across five provinces (Shefa, Tafea, Penama, Malampa and Torba) who are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. Initial assessment reports confirm destruction ranging from 20 to 90 per cent of houses, schools, clinics, churches and crops on all 22 affected islands. Approximately 14,000 homes have been reported to be destroyed or damaged throughout the provinces of Penama, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea, and 65,000 are in need of temporary shelter; 3,392 people were sheltering in 30 evacuation centres in Efate. (OCHA, 22 Mar 2015)
Following severe inundation from storm surges and sea swells generated by TC Pam, the Government of Tuvalu declared a State of Emergency on 13 Mar. Seven islands have been affected. The worst affected were the northern islands of Nanumaga and Nanumea, and the central islands of Nui and Vaitupu. The main impacts are to shelter, infrastructure, food crops and livestock, and water and sanitation. The Kiribati Government reported severe damage in its three southern islands following high winds and sea surges from TC Pam, while in the Solomon Islands, there have been reports of inundation and damage to islands in Malaita and Temotu Province. IFRC estimates that more than 30,000 people are affected. (OCHA, 18 Mar 2015)
After initially monitoring the developing situation Disaster Tech Lab has decided to deploy an advance team to carry out a communications damage and needs assessment. The 5 person team is staging through a base in Australia where they will pick up equipment and travel onwards to Port Vila the Vanuatu capital. From there they will travel to the island(s) of Tanna and/or Erromango to assess the damage by cyclone Pam to telecommunications infrastructure and internet services.
The team will travel to the main centres of population on the island(s) and carry out wireless signal surveys using a variety of tools. The gathered data will be emailed in daily reports (when possible) so that it can be processed into digital maps.
The team will also establish contact with local authorities and community groups to assist in communications damage assessment. Gathered data will be included in daily reports.
The team will record location and capacity of shelters and possible communication needs of such shelters.
If a sizeable shelter or disaster coordination center is encountered which is in need of internet access and/or communications services the team will in coordination with the local person in charge proceed to install satellite & wifi equipment to provide internet access and VoIP services.
Based on the advance team’s findings a decision will be made on the size and scope of a follow up equipment.
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